Monday, March 10, 2014
Shortly before Saturday's concert by the Pat Metheny Unity Group began, a representative of the Topeka Performing Arts Center encouraged the few dozen people who had purchased $35 balcony tickets to move to one of the many open seats near the stage. I kicked myself for splurging on a $55 ticket an hour earlier.
All such earthly considerations were forgotten when the music began.
My vantage point allowed me to pick up on nuances that had previously eluded me. Metheny's comping is almost as inventive as his solos. Saxophonist Chris Potter's lustrous tone is achieved in part through perfect posture. Bassist Ben Williams has a great smile. Drummer Antonio Sanchez is equal parts brainiac and athlete. Because he was positioned behind Sanchez on the crowded stage, I couldn't see multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Giulio Carmassi.
As I predicted in my harsh review of the group's new release Kin, the compositions that sound bombastic on the album proved to be transcendent in a live setting. What I didn't anticipate was my cathartic reaction to the serenity of "Born." Potter's statement on the devastatingly beautiful ballad left me convinced that it's one of Metheny's strongest compositions.
The enchanting solo guitar pieces that opened and closed the 135-minute concert were highlights. Also beyond compare: Metheny's duets with each member of the band, the aggressive harmolodics of Song X's "Police People" and the preposterously brilliant flourishes from the Orchestrion.
A friend suggested after the concert that Metheny is "the Mozart of our time." I don't disagree. So where was everybody? The audience of less than 400 didn't fill a fifth of the venue. Then again, Metheny's recent concerts at the Folly Theater (2012), Liberty Hall (2011) and the Uptown Theater (2010) didn't come close to selling out either.
One of the picket signs held by the infamous Topeka-based agitators outside the venue referenced Revelations. Here's a more pertinent passage from Luke: "No prophet is accepted in his own country."
Bill Berg also reviewed the concert for The Topeka Capital-Journal.
(Original image by Plastic Sax.)
Friday, March 7, 2014
Turtle Island Quartet has been breaking down musical boundaries for almost thirty years. The daring string quartet will perform a program of John Coltrane and Jimi Hendrix compositions at Polsky Theatre on Sunday, March 9.
Wednesday, March 5, 2014
*The return of Bobby Watson's Horizon to the Blue Room is documented by KC Jazz Lark. A critic in the Twin Cities also reviewed a performance by the band.
*Chris Burnett is one of two men strolling through the Jazz District in "Forgotten Prosperity", a compelling video that features the voice of Count Basie. (Tip via Tony's Kansas City.)
*Joe Klopus takes note of this weekend's performances by Tierney Sutton and the Pat Metheny Unity Group in his latest column.
*Steve Kraske interviewed Laili Biali on KCUR's Up To Date.
*For those who have yet to see it- here's a documentary about the Rizer family's connection to Kansas City jazz. It features Dave Rizer and was filmed by Joshua Rizer. (Reminder via Sam Wisman.)
*Tweet o' the Week: Tierney Sutton- HEY KANSAS CITY !!!THIS FRIDAY MAR 7 TSBand will be at The Lovely Folly Theater.LET US MANIFEST AN EARLY SPRING…
*The Kansas City Jazz Calendar has been updated.
*From a press release: 12th Street Jump, public radio's weekly jazz, blues and comedy jam, takes its hour long variety show to the Broadway Jazz Club, 3601 Broadway in Kansas City, beginning Wednesday, March 5. The nationally-syndicated radio show kicks off its new location with a tribute to composer/arranger Quincy Jones featuring special guest Horace Washington. "We're excited to be back live," commented 12SJ co-host Pete Weber. "We started that way five years ago down at the Mutual Musicians Foundation. It's our favorite format-- playing in a club for jazz both here in KC and wherever the show is broadcast. And this one's got great food, too." 12th Street Jump performances are set for 7:30 to 9:00pm every other Wednesday at the Broadway Jazz Club.
*From Take Five Coffee + Bar: Thursday, March 6, 7 pm: Jeff Harshbarger Trio with a Special Guest- If you've been following our programming, you know we had a "secret special guest" show last December, which turned out to be Logan Richardson. This date with Jeff Harshbarger (bass), Roger Wilder (keys) and Mike Warren (drums) will again cause jaws to drop in the coffee shop… $10 cover. Friday, March 7, 8 pm: Steve Lambert Quartet with Peter Schlamb- Unquestionably one of the best young sax players in the city, Steve Lambert brings vibraphonist Peter Schlamb, bassist Seth Lee (who just won the Alaadeen Award of Excellence) and drummer Matt Leifer to knock your socks off… $5 cover. Saturday, March 8, 8 pm: Brandon Mezzelo Quartet- Coming to you all the way from Springfield, Mo., this will be Brandon's second performance at Take Five. The fist one was outstanding, so if you missed it, don't make that mistake twice. Brandon (sax) will be playing with none other than Ken Lovern (Hammond B3 organ), Kevin Frazee (drums) and Myles Gorham (guitar)...
(Original image by Plastic Sax.)
Monday, March 3, 2014
After reading Chuck Haddix's Bird: The Life and Music of Charlie Parker, I waited a few months before picking up Stanley Crouch's Kansas City Lightning: The Rise and Times of Charlie Parker.
I feared the books would be overly similar. In spite of a shared subject, the concurrent works couldn't be more different.
Haddix's biography serves an as invaluable instruction manual for fans interested in retracing Parker's footsteps in the Kansas City area. Crouch seemingly intends to write a comprehensive cultural history of the United States during the first half of the 20th century.
By employing the ubiquitary Parker as his lead character, Crouch is able to examine subjects ranging from railroads to the adaptation of horses by Native Americans. Musicians including Roy Eldridge, Jay McShann, Gene Ramey and Buster Smith merit detailed analysis. Each of Crouch's digressions is fascinating. Crouch is seen by many as an oppressively conservative observer of contemporary culture. His championing of the disruptive brilliance of Parker, consequently, is exceedingly fascinating.
The masterfully written Kansas City Lightning concludes in 1940 when Parker is just 20, meaning that fans can look forward to additional volumes about Parker from Crouch. I can't wait.
(Original image by Plastic Sax.)
Friday, February 28, 2014
Diana Krall isn't the only prominent jazz-based female vocalist, pianist, songwriter and bandleader from Canada. Laila Biali covers Alberta-born Joni Mitchell's "Woodstock" in the embedded video. Biali will be joined by Greg Carroll, the CEO of the American Jazz Museum, at the Blue Room on Saturday, March 1.
Wednesday, February 26, 2014
*From Eddie Moore: We the musicians of the Kansas City jazz scene both members and non members of the Mutual Musicians Foundation (MMF) are issuing a boycott of this organization. Over the years the MMF has blatantly disrespected the musicians community at large along with the failure to follow the structure of the By- Laws. Their actions have gone unanswered and this will not be tolerated any longer. On February 19th an official meeting was called where only one board member was present (secretary), the organization as a whole refused to meet with us and open their doors to help resolve this matter. We are asking that ALL Patrons of the arts and musicians to stop supporting this organization and their functions until this issue is resolved out of respect to the musicians who give their talents and knowledge to the historic organization. For more information email: email@example.com
*KC Jazz Lark pays tribute to the ailing Everette DeVan.
*The latest installment of the Hermon Mehari video series featured at Plastic Sax on February 17 is a duet with Andrew Ouellette on "If I Were a Bell."
*The Robert Glasper Experiment will perform with Ledesi at the Midland theater on May 13.
*The Pitch reports on Everette DeVan's health issues.
*Hunter Long was interviewed by Calli Parker.
*Here's a new episode of 12th Street Jump's "Blues In the News".
*Tweet o' the Week: - Oh the Bill- Everette DeVan Benefit - TapDance: (video)
*Comment o' the Week: Sam- I'm gigging and can't be there tonight, but the Horizon show (with this exact lineup) at the Blue Room about ten years ago is still one of my favorite performances ever. The place was buzzing before, during and after.
*From a press release: The University of Kansas School of Music proudly presents the 37th Annual KU Jazz Festival concerts at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, March 7 and Saturday, March 8 in Woodruff Auditorium at the Kansas Union. This year’s concerts feature special guest artists Jaleel Shaw, saxophone (March 7) and Dave Douglas, trumpet (March 8). Both concert events are open to the public… Both Shaw and Douglas will be featured on new arrangements of their compositions written for the occasion by KU Jazz Studies students and faculty, including works by 2013 DownBeat Student Music Award winners David von Kampen and Clint Ashlock…. Following the main stage concerts at Woodruff Auditorium in the Kansas Union, the music will continue with the KU Jazz Festival After Hours Jazz Sessions, held at the All Seasons Den at The Oread Hotel, from 10:00 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. both evenings. These jazz sessions will feature performances by the Matt Otto Quartet.
*From Rob Scheps: Drummers- There is a great opportunity coming. New York drummer Eliot Zigmund will do a clinic in KC..... On Sunday April 6, from 2 pm - 4:30 pm, The Rob Scheps/ Eliot Zigmund 4tet (with Roger Wilder & Bob Bowman), will do a concert/ clinic in Kansas City. The venue is being confirmed and will be announced soon. But the date and time are firm.. The 4tet will play; Eliot will speak about his career and the drums; and those who wish will get to play with the band, and can receive advice and critique from Eliot.... a jazz master class situation.
*From a press release: Award-winning Canadian vocalist and pianist Laila Biali will be gracing the stage at the American Jazz Museum on March 1… Described as “an exciting and unique talent” by Sting, Laila is a genre-bending performer known for intertwining pop, rock, classical, soul, and jazz into truly remarkable arrangements… Kicking off in Kansas City, she is joined by vibraphonist Greg Carroll, the CEO of the American Jazz Museum in Kansas City as well as an award-winning jazz performer and educator!
(Original image of a monitor at the National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial by Plastic Sax.)
Monday, February 24, 2014
I spotted a lone tuba amid the hundreds of fiddles, banjos and guitars I saw on stages and in the hallways at the Folk Alliance Conference at the Westin Crown Center on Saturday. Brass instruments were a rarity at the four-day event that attracted a reported 3,000 people to Kansas City.
With 11 official stages and countless spontaneous jam sessions, the absence of a designated jazz-themed forum was disheartening. The addition of the music associated with Kansas City would have been a nice component of what seemed to be an entirely successful event.
The proposal isn't all that strange. Locally-based jazz musician Matt Otto refers to his music as "folk-jazz". And Béla Fleck is just one of thousands of jazz-minded musicians who have emerged from the world of progressive bluegrass. Beau Bledsoe of Alaturka gets it. I saw him taking in a performance by the Turkish-born oud master Ismail Hakki Fencioglu at the expansive festival.
Kansas City will host the conference for the next few years. I fully expect enterprising jazz musicians and promoters to explore the possibilities of an artistically fruitful association with the locally-based Folk Alliance.
(Original image by Plastic Sax.)